Rice congee, or porridge, is a traditional staple of Cantonese cuisine, whether it is “white” (plain, just rice) or with additional ingredients. Ideally it is eaten in the morning hours, between 7-11 AM, when the Stomach and Spleen Qi are ready for nourishment, gently warming the digestive system and preparing us for the day’s opportunity. It is also a recuperative food that can be supportive to recovery following a long period of illness. Congee nourishes vitality, engenders fluids and Yin and plain congee is said to calm the Liver. Connoisseurs of this humble food will rate it based on fluffiness (the grains being “flowered” like popcorn), softness of the grains, and smoothness of the porridge. True to Cantonese cuisine, there is an art to its creation.
Long yan rou (Longan fruit) is sweet and warm, nourishes the Heart and Spleen, tonifies the Blood and calms the Spirit. It is often used in formulas to support normal sleep and soothe anxiety. Hong zao (Red date) enter the Spleen and Stomach channels and tonify Qi and Blood. Peanuts enter the Spleen and Lung meridians, strengthen and harmonize the digestive system, nourish Lung Qi and dispel Phlegm, support cognition and enhance memory, relieve itching and moisturize the skin.
- 500 g flaky white fish filet (traditionally, 700 g of Grass Carp heads is used and can be purchased in Asian groceries)
- 30 g Peanuts (Hua sheng, green or raw) rinsed and soaked in water for an hour
- 20 g Long yan rou (Arillus longana fruit), rinsed
- 12 pc Hong zao (Ziziphus jujuba fruit), rinsed and pitted
- 1 c Rice*, rinsed and soaked in water for about 20 minutes
- 2 Tbl Vegetable oil
- 4-5 slices fresh Ginger
- Cook Long yan rou and Hong zao together in a small pot of water for 1 hour (bring to boil then reduce to low heat). Don’t drain.
- While they are cooking, drain water from soaked rice, mix with 2 teaspoons of the cooking oil, set aside.
- Bring a pot of 12 cups of water to a boil.
- While waiting for the water to boil, use remaining oil to pan-fry ginger slices, then add the fish to the pan and fry for about 2 minutes on each side. Set aside.
- When water boils, slowly pour in rice, stirring in one direction. Keep stirring until water becomes milky white and the rice grains have puffed out (about 5-8 minutes).
- Add remaining ingredients (including cooking water of the Long yan rou and Hong zao) into the congee and lower heat so that congee is lightly bubbling for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid ingredients sticking to the bottom of the pot. (If you prefer thinner congee, add boiling water to the congee as it cooks.)
- Salt to taste and serve hot.